The North Face Apex Flex DryVent Review
Cons: Mediocre mobility and freedom of movement, breathability, heavy, hood doesn't fit over a helmet
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face Apex Dryvent is the perfect option for folks who need something to protect them from a downpour but would prefer it to look more stylish than your typical rain jacket. This is where the Apex is unique, with an exterior fabric that looks closer to a softshell or even a sport coat, but with the guts of a real rain shell. This does come at a cost, and that is breathability and weight, limiting its versatility and use for more traditional outdoor or aerobic uses.
This model uses DryVent, The North Face's price-focused proprietary waterproof breathable membrane in a 3-layer construction. What is unique about the Apex Flex DryVent jacket is that they laminate the waterproof membrane to an exterior stretch-woven material, which is what gives it is softshell like appearance.
The Apex has a large front storm flap and a deep hood, which help keep its wearer dry. This combination of design features and thick construction help with stormworthiness. While this model does a great job of keeping water out, its exterior fabric started to absorb water quicker than others. While this wasn't necessarily a sign of water getting in, it did makes us feel colder and damper once it happened.
The Apex sports a deep hood, which is nice for keeping the rain off your face. It only has cinches on the sides of the wearer's face (no back cinch); despite this, it kept our head dry, but provided minimal peripheral vision when we turned your head (you just end up looking inside your hood when you turn your head). The hood does not fit over a climbing or bike helmet, but it is possible to wear a helmet over the top of the hood.
Breathability & Venting
The proprietary DryVent membrane lacks the breathabilty found in jackets of a similar price range; this was disappointing considering it appeared to have one of more breathable interior and exterior fabrics. The interior stretch-knit backer material made the jacket feel less clammy than most. However, if we started working hard or got aerobic, we easily overwhelmed the maximum moisture capacity. In turn, we would end up quickly wetting out the internal material.
Comfort & Mobility
For interior fabric, the Apex uses a solid, stretch-knit backer, which is soft and does not produce a clammy feel. Its material also has a good amount of stretch to it, which helps with mobility and feels less restrictive. However, while we liked the athletic cut, it certainly doesn't have a mobility-focused cut. No other model had its sleeves pull back as far from our wrists when we reached forward, or have the hem raise as much as this one. It will suffice for mellow activities, but if you need something to move with you for your rainy day activities, you'll want to look elsewhere.
While the thick stretch-woven exterior and knit interior fabrics are comfortable and stylish, they do make this one of the heaviest models we tested, limiting its use for more traditional outdoor activities, like hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering. At 28 ounces, it's almost double the weight of others in our fleet and is almost five times the weight of some. Weight, along with limited mobility, are the primary factors limiting to this model's outdoor, athletic use.
The weight does have some benefits, and one of those is certainly durability. This product has a stretch-woven face fabric, which is why it looks more like a softshell on the exterior, while the rest in our review use a (more typical) nylon or polyester fabric. While it is quicker to wet out, this model's stretch woven material is thicker and more abrasion resistant than even 50D nylon or polyester models.
The inside is a solid, stretch-knit backer, which is going to hold up better than a traditional 2.5-layer jacket. It will do a better job of protecting its waterproof membrane from sweat and grime, thus increasing the longevity of the waterproof layer.
Despite being one of the heaviest in our review, this jacket was similar in packed volume. This lets it disappear in the bottom of a laptop bag or backpack once the storm has stopped, or if it is threatening to pour later in the day. It isn't so enormous that you couldn't throw it in the bottom of your pack for a day hike, but if these types of applications are what you are primarily looking to buy your rain jacket for, there are better options.
Compared to other rain jackets, this model is in the middle of the road from a price perspective. However, it offers a unique and stylish look; it also provides decent weather resistance, even at if its at the cost of other performance characteristics such as weight or mobility.
This jacket is comfortable, stylish, and stormproof; however, its limited mobility and weight will limit its use for traditional applications, like hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering. It's plenty stormworthy for waiting for the bus or walking the dog in the pouring rain; you can also wear it out for a night on the town. We just recommend looking elsewhere if you're after a rain jacket for active outdoor pursuits.
— Ian Nicholson